This bartender’s got your number

May 27th, 2012 · 47 comments

Fun fact: according to a Pew Research report, 30% of young adults have pretended to be using their phone in order to avoid interacting with the people around them.

If you’re one of them, here’s a head’s up: Your awkward penguin moves aren’t gonna help you at Gestalt Haus in San Francisco.

If you are going to use the restroom without buying anything, don't pretend to get a phone call on the way out in order to avoid eye contact with the bartender. Thanks —MGMT

Adds our submitter, Carly: “Even though I bought plenty of beer while I was there, I still felt like I needed to make eye contact with the bartender when coming out of the pisser. And that gets a little awkward after a while.”

related: Drip-dry only, ladies

FILED UNDER: bar · most popular notes of 2012 · oh snap · San Francisco · toilet

47 responses so far ↓

  • #1   shwo! bang

    Making eye contact with the bartender on the way INTO the bathroom carries the potential for much more awkwardness…

    May 27, 2012 at 3:35 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #1.1   FeRD bang

      I dunno, I’ve had some fun impromptu sexytimes that way…

      May 28, 2012 at 12:54 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #2   Poltergeist

    Insisting people buy something in order to use the restroom is a real dickish move. If I saw this sign, I’d be sure to look the bartender straight in the eye as I walked right out the door, my wallet just as full (or rather, empty) as it was when I walked in there.

    May 27, 2012 at 4:01 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #2.1   kermit

      You know what an even more dickish move is? European pay toilets. You have to drop a dump to be able to take a dump.

      May 27, 2012 at 4:28 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #2.2   Adriana

      I don’t think it’s dickish. Restroom facilities cost a lot to maintain and they are a courtesy to customers. We all have bathroom emergencies, but using the bathrooms routinely at places you’re not a customer is like going into a fast food restaurant without buying anything and walking out with all the paper napkins and straws you can fit into your pockets.

      May 27, 2012 at 5:03 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #2.3   makfan bang

      People make such a damn mess out of bathrooms. I’m just amazed at towels on the floor, “misses” around the toilets/urinals, etc. I watched a guy at my office wash his face in the only sink in the bathroom I was using. When he left there was water all over the mirror and the counter. It was disgusting. I work with so-called professionals who mostly make upper five- and low six-figure salaries. Apparently salary doesn’t imply a shred of manners.

      May 27, 2012 at 5:29 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #2.4   kermit

      Adriana –

      You do realize that I was referring to public bathrooms, not bathrooms in restaurants, right?

      And having cleaned my share of restaurant bathrooms, I can testify that some people are indeed barbarians. However I still maintain that it’s a bad idea to prevent people from using the bathroom, particularly if they look like they really really have to go. The only thing worse than shit all over the bathroom is shit in the surrounding areas.

      May 27, 2012 at 8:13 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #2.5   vegangeekgirl bang

      I think it’s a dickish move with pay toilets.
      It’s not only in restaurants it’s everywhere, sometimes you have to pay even as a paying customer.
      I really hate paying for going to the bathroom only to find a bathroom that doesn’t seem to have been maintained in ages or have that blue light that are supposed to keep people from injecting drugs in there.
      I doubt it helps because if you are at a point in your life where you inject drugs in a public bathroom you can probably find your veins no matter what colour of the light.
      Also I find the blue light very hard on the eyes and have trouble being in there at all.

      Having a nice, clean, free toilet will make me think positivly of your establishment and up the chances that I return and buy something!

      May 27, 2012 at 8:24 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #2.6   Poltergeist

      Yes, it is a dickish move. So let’s say I really have to use the bathroom – are they going to actually delay me by saying I have to buy something before they let me use it? After I use it and attempt to walk out, are they going to call security? Too bad they can’t force me to buy anything. Or maybe they’re going to quickly pull out their phones, take a picture of my face, and blacklist me.

      I’m going to add that I am very courteous when I use the bathroom. I never leave a mess. Water stays in the sink, paper towels stay in the garbage, waste stays in the toilet.

      Don’t be a fool and attempt to get into a power struggle over bathroom usage.

      May 27, 2012 at 11:52 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #2.7   Adriana

      Kermit, you do realize I wasn’t talking to you, right? I was talking to the guy who said that it’s a dickish move to have to buy something if you want to use private restrooms. Note that I only mentioned “paying customers.”

      May 28, 2012 at 12:13 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #2.8   kermit

      Evidently not. My bad.

      May 28, 2012 at 8:15 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #2.9   Dr.Chalkwitheringlicktacklefeff

      A lot of people find it embarrassing to have people know they used the bathroom without buying anything. Personally, I think shitting yourself in public is even more embarrassing.

      As for pay toilets; I’ve only seen them here in the UK at train and bus stations – and the reason they have them there is to keep homeless people out (I assume)…okay, naked profiteering is probably part of it as well.

      May 28, 2012 at 8:27 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #2.10   kermit

      Don’t homeless people have nothing but change? And even if they didn’t, isn’t it more of a hassle for city workers to clean sh!t from the surrounding public places – where the homeless who don’t have change – would sh!t, anyway? At least in a bathroom it’s somewhat contained.

      May 28, 2012 at 1:55 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #2.11   The Elf

      Having worked retail (where the bathroom was inaccessible to customers but still used in emergencies), I can see both sides to the public toilet thing. Honestly, as long as the owner isn’t a dick about it, toilets for paying customers only isn’t unreasonable.

      I do think it funny that some people find it embarrassing to go to the bathroom. What, no one else has to pee or poop? It’s a bathroom. That’s what it is there for!

      May 29, 2012 at 10:33 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #2.12   Alex

      The point of the note is not that you *have* to buy something to use the restroom, but that you shouldn’t pretend like the bartender doesn’t know you just came in to use the restroom and are not going to buy anything. His wage is dependent on your tips, so to him, if someone comes in and doesn’t buy anything, it matters.

      Jun 3, 2012 at 1:12 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #2.13   Poltergeist

      The bartender should be busy tending the bar and not be worrying about who has and hasn’t used the bathroom.
      Me using the bathroom and not paying for anything and me using the bathroom somewhere else have the same outcome for the bartender. It’s just that one of them might prevent me from crapping myself.
      You all are thinking way too deeply into this. It’s really quite humorous watching people attempt to rationalize bathroom Naziism. If someone says they have to go, let them go. Life goes on.

      Jun 3, 2012 at 1:08 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #2.14   Dr.Chalkwitheringlicktacklefeff

      How does it matter to the barman if someone come in to use the toilet without buying anything? That person just wouldn’t have come in at all if it weren’t for the fact that he/she needed to use the toilet, so the barman has lost nothing.

      Jun 9, 2012 at 5:39 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #2.15   Vulpis

      Potergeist, you pretty obviously haven’t a clue of what a barman’s job *is*, it seems. They need to monitor pretty much everything going on in the place, including if a patron has been in the bathroom an excessive amount of time (there are entirely too many stories about people who’d passed out and/or needed medical attention in the bathroom after getting drunk in a bar).

      That said, it seems more like this bartender is just annoyed about people being rude in their bar–if they make note of your exit from the restroom in case you intend to come order something, at the very least be polite enough to make eye contact in return and indicate you aren’t buying. After all, using the facilities and not bothering to help pay the people who take care of them (emergency or not) is a rude move. :-/

      Jun 17, 2012 at 12:28 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #3   Ashes

    Reading PassiveAgressiveNotes has given me real perspective about all the f’ed up places people will take a dump or have a piss. All things considered, PLEASE businesses, let people use your washrooms for free.

    May 27, 2012 at 7:42 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #4   kathryn

    I really think that 30% number is way too low.

    May 27, 2012 at 7:53 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #4.1   FeRD bang

      Pew was never very good at surveying.

      May 28, 2012 at 12:56 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #5   zomboid

    what is the point of this note? does the bartender particularly enjoy eye contact with strangers as they leave the toilet?

    May 27, 2012 at 11:58 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #6   Sarah

    I don’t think the point of the note is to stop people using the toilet without buying a drink, rather to encourage some courtesy. If you’re stuck and need the loo, the only place being the nearest bar, it is just polite to say to the staff ‘please can I just use the toilet?’ and have the manners to say thank you afterwards.

    May 28, 2012 at 4:01 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #7   Lil'

    For the most part, I only stop at businesses I know keep a clean restroom. I know this because I’m a regular customer. With hundreds of customers streaming through daily, I don’t expect the cashiers to all remember my face. For that reason, I think businesses should be less pissy about what they perceive to be non-paying customers using the restrooom. Just because I didn’t buy something today doesn’t mean I don’t patronize your business. In fact, I stop many more times to buy something than I do to use the restroom. Feel free to disagree, but when I gotta go, I’m gonna go. The bladder is like the heart…it wants what it wants.

    May 28, 2012 at 6:40 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #7.1   Dr.Chalkwitheringlicktacklefeff

      I follow that logic. I live in a small town, so odds are any shop or cafe I go into to use the bathroom is one that I’ve at some point been into as a customer previously. I reckon that I probably go into most places and buy things without using the bathroom more times than I’ve used the bathroom in a given place. So the way I see it, they owe me a bathroom use from whenever I was last there.

      May 28, 2012 at 8:31 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #7.2   kermit

      I don’t eat in restaurants frequently. But when I do, I go straight to the bathroom to determine if I would like to stay and eat there. Generally speaking, if a restaurant’s bathroom is clean, so is the kitchen.

      May 28, 2012 at 6:11 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #8   Dr.Chalkwitheringlicktacklefeff

    Am I the only person who isn’t ashamed of going into a shop or eatery to use the bathroom without buying anything. I don’t even pretend I was going to and that I just changed my mind. If the proprietors are offended it’s not my problem.

    May 28, 2012 at 8:20 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #8.1   Poltergeist

      I’m not ashamed. I really don’t see what the big deal is. There have been a few occurrences where I really had to go, stopped in a local store to use the bathroom, said please before and thank you as I left, and didn’t buy anything. As rational people, they didn’t care, and I don’t think their business suffered from my using the bathroom. It’s not like I make this a regular thing at a specific place…

      May 28, 2012 at 11:59 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #8.2   Tileyfa

      It doesn’t bother me, or most people in Kansas from the way everyone else seems to act here, if you travel from one town to another, gas stations & McDonalds are the places to make your pit-stops. I think gas stations make up for the bathroom visits with the random impulse buying of some of the people stopping in.

      May 30, 2012 at 2:04 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #8.3   Vulpis

      I think that’s part of the whole problem here–if you’re being honest and straightforward about it, that’s one thing. Sounds like this bartender’s getting annoyed at how many people ‘pretend’ that that wasn’t what they were doing.

      Jun 17, 2012 at 12:31 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #9   Quite Contrary

    Dear Note Writer, do you realize all you are asking for people to do is to make eye contact with the bartender? I’m more than happy to not buy anything and look at you on the way out, since that is what you are asking me to do. All the best, A Journalism Major

    May 28, 2012 at 12:10 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #9.1   Sheilaton

      I guess their goal isn’t to get eye contact. Maybe they want to let people know that using restrooms without being a customer is frowned upon, specially if such people doesn’t ask “please?” or say “thanks” afterwards. Certainly they can’t be sure if someone is faking a phone call to avoid the bartender, but sometimes it’s just very noticeable.

      May 30, 2012 at 7:46 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #10   TAG

    I always at least grab a bottle of water whenever I have to do this; I think it’s only fair.

    May 28, 2012 at 12:44 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #10.1   Lil'

      Well, you are just setting yourself up for another potty break. It’s a never ending cycle.

      May 28, 2012 at 1:09 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #11   cowbert

    It is interesting that for more than a century that this is still an “issue”. Remember, when Sigmund Freud visited New York he observed that in order to use a restroom in a restaurant he first had to buy a plate of greens, and that when he went in search of a public restroom: “They escort you along miles of corridors and ultimately you are taken to the very basement where a marble palace awaits you, only just in time.” He wrote that these two experiences informed him much about the American psyche and how it fit into his psychosexual theories (namely, the anal stage).

    May 28, 2012 at 1:15 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #11.1   Dr.Chalkwitheringlicktacklefeff

      He was a very imaginative man.

      Jun 9, 2012 at 5:44 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #12   Pete

    The bartender wants to make sure you’ve washed your hands, he can tell by looking in your eyes.

    May 28, 2012 at 1:23 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #13   Daniel

    Somehow, I really want to believe this all goes back to being caused by the freaks who won’t sit all the way down.

    May 28, 2012 at 5:37 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #14   Dane Zeller

    To hell with the cell phone trick. As I leave the bar (fast food restaurant, coffee shop) not having purchase anything, I take that embarrassing moment to zip up my pants. Then, everyone thinks I’m crude, not cheap.

    May 29, 2012 at 7:39 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #15   jay

    just to add to the debate: in my hood, the reason a lot of the business owners have a “bathrooms are for customers only” policy is to keep people from going in there just to drunkenly puke or do drugs or whatever. It’s not so much about making money as it is just trying to get people to go make a mess somewhere else. (Some of our local barbershops, etc. will charge you like $1 to use the bathroom if you’re a non-customer, for the same reason.) If you go in there sober and ask nicely, you’ll almost never get turned down.

    May 29, 2012 at 8:11 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #16   davey

    I don’t feel any shame for using the restroom without buying anything. I look at it this way: to get in, I probably had to pass by some ads the shop owner has set up (audio or visual). The ads were seen or heard by me and therefore paid for my visit.

    Even more compellingly, other potential customers on the street would see me walking in, thinking I was a paying customer. When people see others walking into a shop, they think to themselves “wow, he’s walking in, rather than recoiling in horror. That is one reputable establishment.”

    So really, I’m listening to their ads AND doing them the favor of endorsing their shop by passing myself off as someone willingly parting with their hard earned cash. You can’t buy marketing like that.

    You know what – I think they owe ME one.

    May 29, 2012 at 9:18 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #17   Snoofy bang

    Restaurant bathrooms are not a courtesy for customers, at least not in the U.S. It’s the law. Anyplace that serves food on site has to have a bathroom available and it must be handicap accessible too.

    When it gets dicey is when there is no publicly available toilet – such as in a small shop – and the public insists on using it anyway. And then mucks it up.

    May 29, 2012 at 12:38 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #18   rtuko

    If you’re in a bar in which the bartender has the leisure to scrutinize every person using the bathroom, there’s something wrong with the bar.

    May 29, 2012 at 6:37 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #19   Jeffbrown

    Ok, pretending that I was a bar owner, I would definitely want my restroom to be used by my customers and my staff. I agree with Adriana that restroom maintenance is another expense to the restaurant/bar and why should they let people who don’t use their service to use their restroom.

    People can disagree all they want but wait until they have their own business, I bet they will not just let anyone use your restroom. More people using the restroom means extra toilet paper & water that will be used and extra cleaning effort to keep it clean which lead to unnecessary expense that should be prevented.

    Jun 7, 2012 at 7:31 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #19.1   Dr.Chalkwitheringlicktacklefeff

      We live in an adversarial consumer environment. It’s up to businesses to look out for their interests, and likewise up to the rest of us to look after ours. Business has nothing whatsoever to do with fairness; never has, never will. If I need a shit, i’m using your bathroom to do it in and that is pretty much that. If more members of the general public understood that commerce is effectively a tug’o'war between business and the public, banks and corporations might not be running rampant right now.

      Jun 9, 2012 at 5:49 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #20   class factotum

    I’ve always looked to McDonald’s as a beacon of clean, free toilets when I’ve been traveling. Lately, Starbucks has entered the pantheon: their toilets are clean and their stores are ubiquitous. Plus I’ve spend enough money there over the years not to feel guilty for using their facilities. But in Paris, you have to have a code to use their toilet, a code that appears on your receipt. I really didn’t see the point of spending $7 (bad exchange rate) to reload and face the same problem again:

    Jun 7, 2012 at 9:44 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #21   Meatbone

    So, I am the creator of that sign. I am a bartender at Gestalt in San Francisco. It was a slow day and after about 10 people in row used the bathroom without buying anything, I thought I would try a sign and see if I got any different results. It’s funny how people feel so embarrassed after they use the bathroom and know they are not going to buy anything. I’ve seen every trick in the book…fake cell phone calls, asking if we sell some obscure item that they know the answer will be “No”…etc. I have never turned down anyone asking to use the restroom. Our location happens to be in a popular spot for people needing to poo and pee. The point is, that if you are polite and just ask, you almost would never be turned down. It is the pretending to be a customer when really you just have to use the toilet that is interesting. Our establishment happens to have one of the only 1 person-locking door bathrooms in the area, so it is popular for people to use it for other ventures…like drugs. This is an issue when actual customers need to pee and are waiting 20 minutes while some asshole shoots himself up with heroin or is passed out in there. We have had to smash down the door 5 times in the last 3 years because someone was unconscious in there. Also, like many people said, it is like a person is normal and calm when they walk in a bathroom, but as soon as the door locks, they turn into a smashing psychopath. The amount of damage done to our bathroom on a weekly basis is mind-boggling!
    Anyway, the sign was just meant to be a joke, and was taken down later that day. It was fun watching people pretend to get phone calls on the way out. It just seems ridiculous. Just ask. For the most part, people are friendly and you will get what you want by being polite.

    Sep 3, 2012 at 9:46 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up


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